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Sea Eyre is making a habit of beating home another trotter by his own sire when he wins. The harness racing gelding by The Pres has scored two victories to date, and on both occasions he's gotten to the post ahead of a year-older trotter who shares the same father.   The first time was at Addington on February 19 this year when Sea Eyre defeated I'm Not Eyre, then last Friday night at Alexandra Park he did it again - prevailing in a tight finish over Precious Moment to set up a $127 quinella!   It's fair to say that the pickings have been slim in between wins, but like a lot of trotters who are learning their craft, Sea Eyre had a few wee issues that needed ironing out and the decision to send him north has started to pay dividends.   Raced on lease by Palmerston-based horseman Ricky Allen, Sea Eyre joined the stable of Richard Brosnan a couple of months after clearing maidens and his new trainer speaks highly of the now 4-year-old gelding out of Viola Chiola.   "Ricky thought that a change of scenery might help," Brosnan said, explaining the temporary arrangement.   "And the horse's issues aren't anything major, just a lot of little things; it always takes time to get to know them and work out what suits."   The chinks in Sea Eyre's armour included a couple of steering issues and his tendency to "fire up" on raceday, but Brosnan's confident that he's slowly turning things around.   "He's actually really good-natured and is beautiful around home, plus on racenight he'll be as quiet as anything too - until you get him out onto the track, when he turns into a right handful.   "He'll be hard on the bit, and the trick is trying to get him to save that until later in the race; even when he's been wild at times though, some of his runs weren't that bad.   "We've changed a bit of gear and are hopefully getting him sorted now, because he did seem more relaxed on Friday."   It's too early to tell whether Sea Eyre will climb as high as the Open Class ranks, but the man who's currently putting the polish on this son of The Pres believes he can win more.   "He might not be a star but he's a nice, handy trotter - and I do think he's still twelve months away yet," Brosnan said.   "There's only a few around by The Pres up here, but they've done quite a good job.   "We've bred two ourselves, out of Baltic Sun. The first one was born with a badly offset hoof and never raced, which was a pity really because it was such a lovely natured horse.   "But I've broken in a 2-year-old full-sister and she's nice too; I've got no problems with them."       For more on The Pres click on this link.   Harnesslink Media

Another session of harness racing trials were held at the Rangiora Raceway today (March 2nd) and as is the norm these days, they unearthed several promising horses in both the qualifiers and in the C0 and faster heats. Qualifiers 1) Lavros Jack -  4 year old by Bettor's Delight from Lavra Ruby A beautifully bred pacer but all Lavros Jack wants to do is trot. Missed his ticket a couple of weeks ago for an early scramble but no such problems today and won his qualifying trotting heat like a horse that wont be a maiden long. Straight to the front and ran them along at a good clip and never looked in danger at any stage. His time was over eight seconds under the qualifying mark and with a little bit more experience, he is going to furnish into a nice horse. 2) Claus  -  3 year old gelding by Tintin In America from B G's Chance This half brother to the very smart Fake Chance 1:56.9 ($232,328) looks to have inherited a lot of the family ability. Manners were excellent from the stand and seemed to do it all within himself. Bettered the qualifying standard by over four seconds and looks the type that won't be long registering that first win Two Year Olds 1) Mr Kalypso  -  2 year old colt by Art Major from Kalypso Another Australian import for the All Stars barn and this one has breeding to burn. He is a half brother to three $100,000 winners including the millionaire pacer Caribbean Blaster 1:52.6 ($1,113,677) and his trial performances have been top class lately. Today he settled three back on the inner before coming off at the 500 metres and despite being held back to the competition, won with a lot in hand in good time. He paced the 2000 metres in 2:32.7, a mile rate of  2:2.8 with closing sectionals of 57.1 and 27.4 and did it easily. Very competitive in any race the All Stars barn line him up in over the next few weeks. Very talented. 2) Ariadne Lavra - 2 year old filly by Art Major from Hilarous Lavra Lined up against the older horses in a maiden heat and gave them a fair old spanking. Drew wide at barrier six but just had too much speed for some handy maidens. Her overall time of 2:31.1 was smart on its own but her closing sectionals of 56.2 and 27 flat were exceptional and she did it easily. Looks a Sires Stakes filly on that run and won't be out of her depth there either going by todays effort. 3) Di'z Luck  -  2 year old filly by The Pres from Howz Lucky A full sister to the very smart two year trotter of a couple of years ago in Primz Luck, this filly is a half sister to a further five winners including Madison Luck (11 wins) and Lanez Luck (7 wins)  She settled last today in the five horse field for two year old trotters before improving from the 600 metres mark and running past them in the home straight with trainer driver Gavin Smith sitting very quietly in the bike. It was a very impressive performance and she was privately timed to run her last 800 metres in a sharp 58.5. Looks to be plenty of upside to to Di'z Luck and she is one to keep an eye out for in the upcoming two year old trotting races. C1 + Faster Pace 1) Artful  -  3 year old filly by Art Major from Ouch La Fe Fe Very impressive performance today which was following up a top third in the $150,000 PGG Wrightson Sales Race at Addington. Followed Emily Brunt around from the 500 metres when that filly improved and then went straight by her in the last 150 metres for an emphatic win over a classy filly. Her last 400 metres of 26.6 was the quickest of the whole day and she seemed to do it without too much urging from driver John Dunn. Seems to have improved even further from her Addington run and will have plenty of opportunities against her own sex in the next few weeks to further her already handy record. Harnesslink Media

Unlike the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka yesterday, the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch today lacked a vital ingredient and that was a strong middle market. There was a good buyers bench for stock in the $50,000 plus market but the $15,000 to $50,000 section of the market was a lot harder to read with wild fluctuations between lots of similar breeding and type. The top end end was consistent and it was no surprise to see Lot 244 bring up the second six figure purchase of the day. A colt by the outstanding trotting stallion Angus Hall named Hands Are A Gift, he is the first colt from the former brilliant trotting racemare Jasmyn's Gift (17 wins) ($192,436). The first foal is the four year old daughter of The Pres named Le Lievre's Gift 1:57.6 who is two from two to date which obviously helped today's sale. Hands Are A Gift paraded like an old timer and nothing seemed to phase him in his long spell in the ring which is another plus going forward. Straight out of the ring Hands Are A Gift stopped and posed for the cameras and stood there as quiet as a lamb while the pictures were taken. One gets the feeling he may be doing that a lot in his career. The next lot to break the $100,000 mark was also not entirely unexpected. Lot 260 was a daughter of  the leading sire Bettor's Delight and the brilliant age  group performer in Lancome 1:54.9 ($461,278) named Le Lancome and was just a stand out individual in the flesh. When we published a story about Le Lancome last week on Harnesslink we had three phone calls from North America enquiring about her such was the impression the photos had made. The Australasian buyers were just as enthusiastic about her and although she eventually made $105,000, the time in the ring was quite brief. Local interest won out in the end with Alan Neumann from Mid-Canterbury taking her home which is great for the harness racing industry in the South Island. Apart from these two lots, there was a lot of below par results spread between those high priced sales and a lot of vendors would be hurting tonight. Harnesslink Media    

Pukekohe harness racing trainer Todd MacFarlane is never one in our opinion to hype up a young horse but talking to Todd today one got the distinct impression he might make an exception for his exciting young trotter, Cyclone Chief. Last season at two, the big overgrown son of The Pres impressed everyone late in the season with a great run for fourth in the Harness Jewels and then produced an even better effort for an unlucky second in the final of the Australasian Breeders Crown at Tabcorp Park,Melton. Given a good break after his Australian trip, Cyclone Chief has slowly but surely started to fill out into his big frame and Todd is happy with his progress this time in. "He has won his two workouts in the last fortnight but I didn't push him too hard as it is still early in this campaign." " For all that he is pretty forward for Friday night and I am expecting a big run," Todd told Harnesslink earlier today. While Cyclone Chief didn't run time in either of his workouts victories, he did show his trademark speed last Saturday when he brushed over the last 800 metres in 58.9 and the 400 metres in a very quick 27.4. Safely through Friday night, Todd has a suitable program mapped out for Cyclone Chief.  " The aim is to line him up on both of the premier nights in early March and then give him a brief break." " Then all going well, we would set him for the Sires Stakes Final and the Northern Trotting Derby at Alexandra Park in late April and then onwards to the Harness Jewels at Cambridge. " A trip to Addington for the New Zealand Trotting Derby in early April doesn't fit into the plan and it is very unlikely we will head south this season," Todd said. Todd has been around the industry long enough to know that Cyclone Chief still has to make that step up again from what he did last season but feels he is showing all the signs of doing just that. " Everything seems to be on track so far but the next few weeks will tell us a lot more about where we are at overall." " He will tell us by his performances if we are moving in the right direction," Todd said. Harnesslink Media

One of the hardest things to promote in the harness racing industry is a stallion who is promising but not quite delivering with the results on the track at the level needed. There can be a whole raft of reasons but the prospective broodmare clients for the stallion just want to see those runs on the board and the more the merrier. I think the above description fits the young trotting stallion The Pres perfectly. The Pres is a son of  the champion trotting sire Andover Hall who is proving to be a great sire of sires with his son Donato Hanover being at the top of the pile in North America Add in a maternal family that is littered with outstanding performers and The Pres has a pedigree that ticks all the boxes. Lightly raced before a career ending injury, The Pres won four of nine and took a 1:55 mark which is a clear  indication of a quality individual. His first crop was welcomed with a lot of favourable comment from trainers in New Zealand when being broken in and they were well received at the sales. From that first crop he produced the smart two year old Primz Luck 2:00.8 who won four of seven starts at two and looked top class but due to injury hasn't again since. That first crop in New Zealand numbered 38 foals and has produced 17 qualifiers to date which in New Zealand conditions is okay but it is only now that they are four year olds that they are stating to convert that into winning performances. Several look very promising such as Le Lievre's Gift 1:57.6 who is two from two to date and Precious Pet who won her only start to date in the manner of a horse with plenty more wins in store The second crop numbers 46 foals which are half way through their three year old seasons. Eight have qualified to date including one of last season's star two year olds in Cyclone Chief  2:01.7p ($34,491) who was very unlucky not to win the Breeders Crown Final at Melton at two going under by a neck after being checked late in the race. Two other three year olds from that crop that look well above average are the Phil Williamson stablemates in Astral Ruler and Sam Galleon. Astral Ruler went round in the Hambletonian at Ashburton on the weekend and didn't disgrace himself while Sam Galleon was impressive winning at Winton last Friday. So The Pres is slowly righting the ship in New Zealand and those numbers should keep improving from now on. While The Pres had been battling to establish himself in New Zealand, his very small Australian crops have been making hay while the sun shines. His first crop who are four this season numbered just two foals, neither of which has raced. His second crop who are three this season number just five foals but four have already won including the star filly Princess Phoenix ($80,133) who won two Group 1 races at two and the promising colt Big Jack Hammer ($33,600) who won one Group 1 at two. To produce two very smart youngsters such as those two from just five foals is the kind of result that stallion owners dream of. What it shows yet again though is that The Pres can produce that individual that is capable of winning Group races which is a must do for any aspiring stallion to establish himself in todays competitive stallion market. There are only six yearlings by the Pres in this years yearlings sales and they are all at the Christchurch sale. The whole six are from lovely trotting mares and with the recent results in both New Zealand and Australia being so positive, the stock of The Pres may surprise a few people on sale day in a fortnight. Harnesslink Media

New Zealand's leading junior driver Brad Williamson is having one of those seasons that just keeps getting better and better. Week in, week out, Brad is churning out the winners at a great rate and the run he is experiencing is showing no signs of abating. Today at Winton Racetrack Brad added another three winners to this season's tally and showed why he is so highly rated by a lot of his contemporaries on the track. "That is the first time I have driven three winners in one day so it was a big thrill especially because I only had four drives on the program," Brad explained when talking to Harnesslink this afternoon His first winner came in the form of the three year old trotter Sam Galleon who after missing away and settling a long way from the leaders, got over the top of them late in the piece for an impressive victory. The son of The Pres looked pretty green throughout the run and looks to have plenty of upside going forward. "He has got a lot to learn but there is no doubting the ability is there." "He is a half brother to three open class trotters so he is bred to be above average." "There is a lot of improvement there yet when he learns a bit more ringcraft," Brad said. Brad's second winner today was the smart Monarchy mare Pyramid Monarch who backed up her impressive second at Addington last Friday night to Harriet Of Mot with an impressive front running victory. Away brilliantly from her 30 metre handicap to grab the lead after just 400 metres, Pyramid Monarch was never in danger afterwards, coasting down to the line for an easy victory. It was win number eight for the mare and her fourth this season and took her earnings over the $70,000 mark. "She is such a lovely mare to drive." "Her manners are great and she tries so hard every time she goes to the races." "She is just a little money making machine at the moment and I don't think she is finished yet," Brad said. Brad's third winner was the four year old Real Desire gelding Dissolution who surprised everybody by sitting parked out the whole journey and still having enough petrol in the tank to scoot away and win easily in the end. "He is really starting to come into his own this horse." "Not long ago he wouldn't have been able to do that but he has been a big improver recently and that was a good effort today," Brad said. Todays wins took Brad's tally for the season to an impressive 41 victories which is 23 ahead of the chasing pack and barring injury he looks to have the New Zealand Junior Driving premiership in the bag with six months of the season still to go. Harnesslink Media      

The old saying in harness racing that the cream always rises to the top all things being equal is never more appropriate than in the case of young North Canterbury trainer Gavin Smith. After  a promising start to his training career, Gavin had struck one problem after another from blood issues to soundness problems and it seemed to be never ending and as a result, Gavin was on the verge of giving the training game away as recently as earlier this year. The harder he tried the worse it seemed to get and not surprisingly Gavin was having thoughts of getting a Monday to Friday job to pay the bills. This from a horseman who looked just a few years earlier to have a huge future in the harness racing industry after a stellar junior driver career. Gavin started out in the industry helping out Murray Hamilton during the school holidays. " Murray was a friend of mum and dads and I would help out there during the school holidays." " The first time I sat in a cart I was hooked and from that time on this is all that I have wanted to do," Gavin told Harnesslink this week. While his parents raced the odd horse, there is no family history of involvement in the industry. " I am pretty sure I am the only one from either side of the family who is involved in the racing industry as a career," Gavin said. Hooked by harness racing, Gavin got his first job in the industry at age 16 when he went to work for Doug Gale. " Doug was really good to work for and I was there for over two years before doing a three year stint with Mark Purdon." " You never stopped learning off Mark and he was always good to watch and learn from." " From there I did over four years with David and Catherine Butt and I can never thank them enough for all the opportuniities they gave me." "It was while there that I got established as a driver and I don't think I would still be in the industry if it hadn't been for their help." " After that I did 18 months working for Graham Rogerson when he was in partnership with firstly Peter Simpson and latterly with Steven Reid and like everyone you work for, you pick up little things from them that helps give their horses that edge," Gavin said. Deciding it was time to go out training on his own, Gavin returned to Canterbury and purchased a 20 acre block at Leithfield beach and it wasn't long before he brought another adjacent 20 acre block. While his driving for outside trainers such as Phil Burrows and Robert Dunn was going great, his own team was forever having issues. " I got a bad virus that went right through the stable and the horses struggled to get over it." " I could never get their blood right and I tested everything to try to get to the source of the problem with no luck." " I just had one of those runs where nothing went right." " It got to the point where I was thinking seriously about giving the training away." " Then I got the opportunity to lease the complex at Dancingonmoonlight and I thought a change of scenery might change my luck so I moved here on April 2nd this year." " The horses were coming right before I moved here and since the move they have continued to improve." "I have put a lot of time into understanding the results of blood tests and I now like to think I can nip a lot of things in the bud before they become a major problem,"Gavin said. Gavin is thankful to his owners who stuck by him even when things weren't going that well. "Trish Dunell has been with me since I started out on my own and she has been great to train for." "She has been so loyal to the stable and its good she is getting a bit of payback now," Gavin said. Over the last few years Gavin has brought a handful of cheaper yearlings at the sales with the aim to turn them over quickly at a profit and been reasonably successful in doing so but now the plan has changed. " I am not buying as many as I use to but the quality is a lot better and they are by better sires." "I really like three that I bought at this years sales." * Filly by The Pres from Howz Lucky for $16,000 * Colt by Muscle Mass from Whosinthenest for $19,000 * Colt by Artsplace from Sirius Flight for $38,000. " They have all shown plenty to date so I am really looking forward to racing them next season," Gavin said. Gavin is also breeding from three mares in Hanover Glory, Bute Falcon and All Settled Down and has covered them with high profile stallions with Hanover Glory going to Sportswriter, Bute Falcon to Mach Three and All Settled Down to Majestic Son. As with all stables Gavin has one horse that he has really high hopes for next season. " I think Scarlett Banner could be very competitive in the big fillies races next season." " I gave her one start this season when she ran fifth to Dream About Me and Arden's Choice and then had to put her aside." " She has just blossomed in the last couple of months and I am really looking forward to next season with her," Gavin said. Since the move to his new stables Gavin has really got his mojo back, racking up 15 wins as a driver and more importantly 10 winners from his own barn. The highlight though was undoubtedly his drive on the Fred Fletcher trained Sunny Ruby to win the 3 year old Ruby on Jewels day. " Fred and Sam did such a great job just to get her there." " She never started to come right until ten days before the race so to have her ready to run 1:54 was a great training achievement." " She use to over race quite badly but they have got her to settle now so they deserve a lot of credit for the turnaround in her attitude." "She has an all round game and I think she will measure up in the best company in time," Gavin said. With the massive turnaround in stable fortunes since the move to his new stables, Gavin is looking to the future with a lot of confidence. " The move has been positive on so many fronts." Not only with the horses but I get to see a lot more of the family not having to travel so much up to Leithfield. "Sara is running the breeding side with her father Robert and so we work in together a lot with the two operations." It is working out really well, Gavin said. Gavin knows how lucky he is to be in the position he now finds himself in. "I know how hard it is for people who don't have family in the industry to get established." "When I have a look now at all the drivers who were about in my junior driving days, only Nathan Williamson and Jay Abernathy have made it in the training ranks which shows you how hard it is for a young trainer to get established in harness racing," Gavin said. With the way his team is performing at the moment and the confidence he is gaining from driving so well at present, Gavin looks poised to reach the high levels that many astute judges in the industry always thought he was destined for. Harnesslink Media

Charlie Runkle and Princess Phoenix won last night’s Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic Finals at Tabcorp Park Melton for harness racing two-year-old trotters. Charlie Runkle (by Angus Hall out of Star Spangled Banner) took out the colts and geldings’ final for trainer Gary Quinlan and driver Chris Alford, while trainer David Aiken and reinsman son Josh combined with Princess Phoenix (by The Pres out of Dodo Rocket) to win the fillies’. From gate two Charlie Runkle showed gate speed from the 1720m start and easily found the pegs after polemarker Sundons Courage galloped away. Alford handed up to Aiken on Skyflyer and waited for his turn along the sprint lane, Charlie Runkle finishing fast for a 3.4-metre victory in a rate of 2:00.6. “(He) came out really well and got a bit keen being his first time under lights, but he was travelling well at the turn and once the sprint lane opened he got to it like an old pro,” Alford said. Race favourite Cruisin Around ran third after covering ground three wide with no cover. Princess Phoenix rated 2:03.7 for her win. At the 400m she was eased three-wide by Aiken but was still 15m off frontrunner Truscott Law, who had trotted opening quarters of 32.7, 31 and 30.3. Princess Phoenix sprinted sharply and went on to put her opposition away with apparent ease due to an impressive 400-metre burst. “She’s a fast filly. I said the other day she might be a pretty serious filly. And she’s confirmed that,” Josh Aiken said. Plenty of punters found both the Home Grown winners, each backed in late to $3.30. “I think the owners might have tipped a few into her on the way here,” Aiken quipped. Aiken explained Princess Phoenix had fired up during the warm-up but relaxed better when the mobile started to roll. “It’s very daunting for the babies to come here under the lights. She turned it on a bit during the preliminary but once they were scoring up she became a racehorse.” Truscott Law held down second while Maoris Got Muscle and reinsman Caleb Lewis finished third. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Harness racing breeders are never slow to pick up the trends about new sires and these days are pretty quick to abandon any stallion who they think is not delivering on the track. The numbers of mares served by some of our newer sires this year are way down on what they served just twelve months ago and are due no doubt to the lack of winners these stallions are producing. The first one we are going to review is Art Official who dropped this season to just 17 mares after covering 72 last season. His oldest crop are three year olds and numbers 49 horses of which nineteen have qualified but just five have won a race. His second crop are two year olds this year and that crop numbers 80 horses and have produced one smart horse in Salty Robyn 1:53.9 ($ 44,600) who has been burning up Menagle in the last two months. His Australian offspring are doing a good job with small numbers which makes the New Zealand situation harder to understand.  Overall Art Official has been a little disappointing and unless his stock have a big next six months it is hard to see him coming back to Australasia next season. Tintin In America is another sire whose numbers fell away this year even though his oldest crop are only two year olds. That first crop numbers only 32 horses but to date has only had three qualifiers which is disappointing. It is way to early to make any decision about him as a sire but he only served 13 mares this year which means the breeders have taken a wait and see approach. Tintin In America badly needs four or five of those two year olds to salute the judge and create some momentum before the next breeding season or his days as a sire might be numbered. The former champion pacer Elsu is another stallion to get the cold shoulder from breeders. This is a stallion who has produced over 250 winners of over $12,733,000 to date in Australasia alone yet breeders have deserted him. This year he served just six mares in New Zealand and his future may lie in Australia where his stock have won over $8,424,000 and where he has left most of his winners. Gotta Go Cullect is another stallion to get the cold shoulder from breeders after being given every chance in his initial seasons at stud. In his first four years he served over 100 mares every year but this fell away bigtime this season with him attracting just 18 mares. At present he has 222 three year olds and older in New Zealand and to date he has sired just 30 winners so his days may be numbered in New Zealand. Lis Mara was an interesting one for us in that his numbers are not that bad overall. He has 175 horses three year old or older and so far has produced 49 winners and a further 37 that have qualified. Their main problem is like their sire they are better with a bit of age and people are not prepared to wait these days. From a high of 90 mares, Lis Mara dropped to just 7 mares this season and there would have to be real doubts that he would shuttle next year. Finally the trotting sire The Pres is another stallion to suffer a big drop off in demand from breeders after a slow start to his siring career. His oldest crop are just three year olds and number 38 horses and to date he has had just two winners as well as a further four qualifiers. From a high of 80 mares bred in 2013, The Pres slipped to just 13 mares this season and like all the others here badly needs a few flagbearers. It is very early for a trotting sire to be condemned but the breeders patience these days seems to wear out very quickly with any sire not performing immediately. What the above list shows is how hard it is to get a foot on the stallion ladder and once there how difficult it is to stay there. Harnesslink Media

The breeding season is here once again and harness racing is in good heart if the number of trotting stallions available this season is any guide. For the last two breeding seasons trotting bred mare numbers have been holding up remarkably well when compared to their pacing counterparts. The number of pacing mares has been slowly dropping for a wee while now Two seasons ago the number of pacing mares served numbered 2582 but last season saw another drop of 185 mares to bring the total served down to 2397 However in the 2012/2013 breeding season 644 trotting mares were served by 31 stallions and in the 2013/2014 breeding season 617 mares were served by 29 stallions. In light of those figures it is somewhat surprising that the number of trotting sires available to breeders has continued to grow, especially via frozen semen.  In the upcoming season the number of trotting stallions available to breeders has risen to 36. In the last breeding season only four stallions served more than 50 mares for the year and between them that four captured 319 of the mares served leaving just 298 mares for the other 25 stallions. It is little wonder the average trotting breeder is getting confused and having trouble sorting out the wheat from the chaff. Some of the trotting sires available via frozen semen are well established such as Andover Hall, Angus Hall, Muscle Hill, Love You and Muscles Yankee but quite a few are new to the stallion game in New Zealand and it is hard to gage where they sit in the overall scheme of things. Of those available via fresh semen last year, the North American owned Majestic Son served 161 mares in New Zealand and with the season his stock had on the track he should serve a large book again this year. Superfast Stuart (54)  Monarchy (51)  The Pres (50) and Monkey Bones (40) were other sires available via fresh semen last season who served reasonable numbers and they all have one thing in common.  These sires are owned in New Zealand and represent a major investment by the studs/owners but with the number of sires available via frozen semen growing to 26 this year they may have a struggle on their hands to attract mares. If the number of European and North American sires available via frozen semen continues to grow, the days of New Zealand studs and owners standing sires they own via fresh semen may be coming to an end. Weather that is in the best long term interests of the New Zealand industry is highly questionable. Harnesslink Media

Here at Harnesslink, we thought we would be brave and offer our opinion on the Breeders Crown Finals as we head towards one of the seasons biggest harness racing days at Melton on Sunday. Our first preview is of the 2 year old trotters division.  2 year old Trotting Fillies Breeders Crown Final The $87,000 Aldebaran Park final for 2 year old fillies looks to be a battle between three fillies that are all sired via frozen semen and are all by stallions that are at the top of the siring charts in North America. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained daughter of Angus Hall in Arya looks very hard to beat here after an outstanding season in New Zealand which was followed up by a great second to the leading Australian male trotter in Eljaykay Phoenix in the Redwood Classic. Arya has been foolproof all season which in the 2 year old trotting ranks is a major plus and with no Endsino in the field she looks to have a class edge as well. Arya should come into five on the front line which is the perfect draw for here as she can stay out of the early rush and work to the lead without having to burn from the gate. The two main dangers to Arya have both drawn nicely on the front line and are both beautifully bred trotters. Glenferrie Burn who has drawn one is a daughter of the brilliant Muscle Hill from the 16 win Sundon mare in Adellas Dash ($102,626). She has developed as the season has progressed and looks a real chance from the draw to get a soft run. Val Gardena who has drawn three is a daughter of leading North American sire Kadabra from an Andover Hall mare. She has only missed a placing once this season in ten starts and comes into this race a last start winner. From her handy draw Blake Fitzpatrick has plenty of options with Val Gardena and she looks a major player here. Of the others Meadow Valley Road and Naked Majesty have both shown enough to be serious place chances but its hard to see them as genuine winning chances. Selections Arya clearly on top, followed by a combination of Val Gardena, Glenferrie Burn, Meadow Valley Road and Naked Majesty. 2 year old Trotting Colts/Geldings Breeders Crown Final The $87,000 Aldebaran Park Final for 2 year old colts/geldings has drawn a cracking field and the draw has only evened out the contest even more.  All the top contenders have drawn the front line with the favourite Eljaykay Phoenix fearing the worst with barrier seven. A son of champion sire Sundon, Eljaykay Phoenix has looked a class above them for most of the season but his recent defeat by Shared Interest has thrown this division wide open. Throw in his draw and the fact that all the real challengers have drawn inside him means if Eljaykay Phoneix and Joshua Aiken are going to win the final, they are going to have to do it the hard way. His main challenger is the son of Angus Hall in Shared Interest who has drawn beautifully at barrier two which gives Nathan Jack plenty of options Weather he tries to park Eljaykay Phoenix or takes a sit on his back, Shared Interest has the all round game to win the final. The chances don't end there with both Illawong Armstrong and Primz Luck capable of toppling the favoured duo if things go their way. Illawong Armstrong finally gets a good draw and Jodi Quinlan will be hoping that the favoured pair go to war which then brings her horse right into play. The enigma of the field is The Pres gelding Primz Luck whose ring craft has let him down lately but who has ability to burn as he showed in New Zealand several times. Now in the Kerryn Manning barn and to be driven by her in the final, Primz Luck threw it away on his Australian debut in the Redwood Classic. Kerryn has had five weeks since then to iron out those kinks and if he gets around on Sunday they will all know they have been to the races. Selections. Can't split the two favourites in Shared Interest and Eljaykay Phoenix due to the draws but lean a bit towards Eljaykay Phoneix on his overall record. Illawong Armstrong and Primz Luck are both live chances depending how the race is run. Throw in Kyvalley Boomerang, Fabrication and Hadrians Phoenix for trifectas and first fours.  Harnesslink Media    

August 1-7, 2014; At this point in the season, it's typical for 3-year-old horses at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs to be battling against others of their own age in Stallion Series or Sire Stakes action. Yet our two top performers of the week that was at Pocono dared to take on older horses. Not only did they survive, but they thrived. Here are the details of both their exploits and those of the other top performers as we hand out the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: LUCK BE WITHYOU This 3-year-old colt from the Chris Oakes' barn started the season in Canada but quickly found a home at Pocono with a condition win on June 28 in 1:50:1. He then battled his way to a 7th in finals of the prestigious Meadowlands Pace before returning for an even more impressive victory in a blistering 1:48 on July 19. On Saturday night, Luck Be Withyou faced his sternest test yet by going up against the non-winners of $22,500 in the last five races grouping. Among the competitors he would have to face were Meirs Hanover and Bolt The Duer, a pair of veterans as talented and as tested as there are in the sport. If the relative inexperience of Luck Be Withyou was ever going to be a factor, this was the race. At the top of the stretch, the 3-year-old was staring at the tail of Bolt The Duer, who had set the pace and done so in reasonable fractions. Yet Luck Be With You was ready for the challenge when driver George Napolitano Jr. asked for another gear. He sped by a stunned Bolt The Duer and held off fast-closing E Street Plan for the win in 1:49:2. Even though the time wasn't as flashy as his previous win, this victory was the best evidence yet of this sophomore's incredible talent. Other top pacers this week include: Show Runner (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), a mare whose victory in Friday night's featured condition pace in a career-best 1:50:3 was her second straight win; Gold Deuce (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), who powered to a win over $10,000 claimers on Saturday night in 1:50:4, a career-best and his Third Straight win; and Mach It So (Andrew McCarthy, PJ Fraley), who picked up a win in Saturday night's featured Preferred Handicap pace in 1:48:2, a new career-best and the fastest time posted this week at MSPD. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: REVRAC HARBOUR This award was probably a little overdue for this 3-year-old colt from the barn of trainer Tony Alagna. From June 3 to July 1, he ripped off four consecutive wins at Pocono, topping out with a back-to-back career-best miles of 1:54:1 in wins over the non-winners of four condition. He traveled to the Meadowlands after that and struggled against some of the top trotters in the country in a pair of stakes races. Revrac Harbour returned on Tuesday night to face all older horses in a non-winners of $13,000 in the last five starts condition trot. Back at Pocono again, he found his stride quickly by making a move to the front end early in the race. Yet Picture This, the race favorite, lurked behind him In The Pocket for much of the mile and enjoyed a much better trip. In the stretch, Picture This took to the inside passing lane and briefly seemed like he was about to get past. That's when driver Scott Zeron coaxed just a little extra effort from an already-taxed Revrac Harbour, who dug in and surged back in front in the final strides in 1:55:4 on a sloppy track. That makes it five wins in the last five races he's started at Pocono, with this maybe the gutsiest yet. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Zooming (Tyler Buter, Amber Buter),who shipped in from New York for a condition win on Saturday in 1:51:4, easily the week's fastest trotting time; Waldorf Hall (Corey Callahan, Jim Raymer), who churned through the slop for a condition win on Tuesday in 1:53:4; and Swiss Lightning (Anthony Napolitano, Kevin Lare), who ripped off his fourth straight claiming victory on Wednesday night in 1:54:4, matching his career-best in the process. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: RESCUE PLAN It's not often George Napolitano Jr., the meet's leading driver, pilots a long shot, but this condition pacer was at 42-1 when G-Nap steered him to victory on Tuesday night for a $87.60 win payout on a $2 ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR. Who else could it be this other than George Nap, considering that he won seven of the thirteen races on the card on Saturday and nearly pulled off a 20-win week. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: CHRISTIE COLLINS Collins' barn has been steadily gaining momentum in the summer months, and her trainees picked up three more wins this week, including a double on Friday. That will do it for it this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia          

You won’t see any cricket played at Bathurst during the winter months- except for the indoor variety – but as the racing season winds down, centuries and double centuries are occupying the thoughts of some followers and, particularly, leading participants. Amanda Turnbull looks odds-on to repeat last year’s “double ton” driving performance, while dad Steve is making a determined effort to achieve the same score in the training ranks. Nathan Hurst is just a handful of wins from a well-earned training century, and after a slow start, John O’Shea has worked his way into the mid-eighties in driving wins, and is some chance of achieving triple figures as well. What a remarkable achievement it will be for Bathurst harness racing should all reach those milestones. John O’Shea followed up his recent “five-for” with a double last Wednesday, with Queen Khawaja for Canowindra trainer Ken Rue in C0 company, and his own stable runner Vergels Girl in 2YO company. From the inside gate, O’Shea gave Queen Khawaja ($2.80 favourite) the run of the race behind leader Embellished, and the five-year-old mare finished too well for that horse, with death- seating Gatling Silver holding on for third. The winner is from a half-sister to another of Anne Lamb’s breed – a fella named Smooth Satin . Kennny Rue doesn’t have the same ambitions for this girl, but would have enjoyed this third win. Vergels Girl ($3.30) had been racing well in much stronger Breeders Challenge company than the field she was opposing here, and O”Shea drove her aggressively from outside the second line to take the lead in the early stages, skip clear on the turn then hold on from favourite Gentleman Red, which came again close to the line.  Flip Wilson NZ maintained its consistent form with a third from outside the lead. Steve and Amanda Turnbull didn’t crack it for a win until the final event, with Padabing Stride ($1.60 favourite) much too strong for his R0-R1 Competitive Stakes rivals, sitting in the death and drawing away for a soft win from leader Meredith Rose and trailer Carla Dream. It might have been a frustrating and disappointing night for the leading stable as they chased down their targets, but as reported elsewhere in this edition, things would soon improve markedly, with Steve training four at Wagga two days later, and Amanda driving her second Group One winner at Melton last Saturday. Other winners on the night were: Lifes Easy ($2.80 favourite) for Amy Day, in a C0 Tabcorp Menangle Where Horses Fly heat, where the Life Sign mare finished strongly from the running-line with a 59.0 last half. Amy will have a shorter and smoother trip up the highway for the rich final at the end of the month. Crackerjack Jo ($5.70) for Robbie Clifford and trainer Peter Trevor- Jones, in a C2-C3 sprint. The winner got clear late to get up right on the post, with a very impressive 57.7 final half. Robbie Clifford is having a deal of success as a catch-driver this season, and says he’s enjoying his opportunities. Giannis Bromac NZ ($2.30 favourite), a very “soft” winner for Emma Turnbull and trainer Wayne Watterson, in a C1 Tabcorp Park Menangle Where Horses Fly heat. She’d been working the track down at home, and her driver, who’s having a terrific run this season, was very impressed by the ease of the win. Truly Miss Terious NZ ($47.60) belied its price with the night’s biggest winning margin of 13 metres in a heat of the C1-C2 Penrith Mayors Cup, for Jason Turnbull. Trainer Wendy supplied the quinella in the race, through runner-up Likeallofus. The winner will not start at those inflated odds in tonight’s Cup final at Penrith. Hells A Coming ($3.40 favourite) for West Wyalong visitor Peter Birks and driver Scott Hewitt, made up for a close second at her last start at this track, with a good win from the one-one in 3C0- 3C1 Fillies class. It was the third win from just eight starts for the filly, and completed a good night for the western visitors who had an earlier placing with Coopers Beach Boy. News that the lighting towers have been positioned at the new Mt Panorama track was the talking point among locals and visitors at the meeting. The interest and excitement is building. Marianne Donnelly Bathurst Harness Racing Club

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - As a racetrack owner, Jeff Gural has been a winner at Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs and more recently with the Meadowlands. As a racehorse owner and breeder, Gural has enjoyed plenty of victories including the current nine-race winning streak by his 4-year-old trotting mare Perfect Alliance. But Gural will experience even a first for him in Friday's first race at the Meadowlands when Gural the horse-owner faces Gural the horse. Gural is a part-owner of 3-year-old trotting colt Propulsion, a $250,000 purchase by noted pedigree expert Myron Bell. Propulsion, a royally bred son of Muscle Hill out of Hambletonian Oaks winner Danae, was fifth last week in his first career pari-mutuel start. Among Propulsion's eight opponents on Friday is Gural Hanover, a 3-year-old Crazed gelding, owned by Jesse and John De Long. Gural Hanover sold for $17,000 at the 2012 Harrisburg sale, but won his only career pari-mutuel start last September at Balmoral Park. He makes his Meadowlands debut on Friday for trainer Heidi Rohr. "I guess the pressure is on Myron to deliver with our expensive horse," said Gural, "but I'm looking forward to watching Gural Hanover race too." by Rachel Ryan, for the Meadowlands

Veteran Northam harness racing trainer Jesse Moore hit the jackpot when he outlaid a mere $NZ5000 for a filly at the New Zealand premier yearling sales in Christchurch early last year. The filly, named Tricky Styx, repaid Moore handsomely for his cheap gamble when she stormed to a brilliant victory in the $50,000 Slater Gartrell Sports Midland Champagne Classic at Gloucester Park on Friday night. "I just happened to fluke buying this filly in New Zealand," the 69-year-old Moore said after Aiden De Campo had driven Tricky Styx, a 27/1 tote outsider to a runaway win in the 2130m group 2 classic. "I never buy horses for myself and we just happened to fluke this one and I bought her for my wife Maree." The $5000 New Zealand converts to $4670 in Australian currency and the filly is already a tremendous bargain. She has had five starts for three wins and stakes of $44,285. For many years Moore has had the reputation as one of the State's best trainers of juvenile pacers and Tricky Styx gave him his fourth success in the Champagne Classic, after wins with Nixon Adios (1975), Wirrpunda (2001) and All Four Firing (2002). Tricky Styx became the ninth filly in the 45-year history of the classic to win the event, following the successes of Jidaley (1971), Deep Decor (1974), Chryso Mou (1976), Whitby Tolez (1991), Whitbys Merit (1993), Nowuseemenowudont (2000), Sheza Clout (2006) and Arma Xpress (2012). And the 22-year-old de Campo was following a wonderful family tradition in the Champagne Classic. His late grandfather Ray de Campo trained Perene Maverick (1988) and Patmos (1990) for their wins in the race. Those youngsters were driven by Aiden De Campo's father Andrew, who also won the event as a trainer-driver with Pawnee Gold in 1995 and Nowuseemenowudont five years later. Tricky Styx, the only filly in the field, has been a problem horse for Moore, beginning badly once and breaking in running twice in her four runs before Friday night's event. Moore made a point of thanking fellow Northam trainer Mike Williams, saying: "He is a special person I'd like to thank. He has done all the work on her and drives her in her trackwork. She was a bit of a handful when we first brought her over." Not only did Tricky Styx have to overcome the not insignificant task of beating the colts and geldings in the race, but she had to overcome the disadvantage of starting from the outside barrier (No. 7) on the front line. Tricky Styx was slow in the score-up and de Campo wisely restrained her back to last while the Persistent Threat, unbeaten at five starts and hot favourite at 2/1 on, set the pace with first Coeur de Whitby and then The Odd Lover in the breeze. When Matt White urged Three Bears forward 900m from home de Campo followed the three-wide run. Tricky Styx was still in ninth position passing the 550m mark when she unwound a sparkling burst. The Odd Lover gained a narrow lead 220m from home before Tricky Styx exploded on the scene and charged to the front 120m from the post. Tricky Styx won effortlessly by three lengths from The Odd Lover, with almost four lengths to Persistent Threat in third place. The final 800m was covered in 59.3sec. and Tricky Styx rated 1.58.2 over the 2130m journey. That was the fastest recorded by any winner of the classic over 2130m or 2100m. The only faster rate recorded by a winner of the Champagne Classic was the 1.58.1 by Sportsmans Dream in 1992. Pawnee Gold rated 1.58.2 when he won in 1995. Both those races were decided over 1700m. Aiden De Campo was full of praise for Tricky Styx, a big, well-grown filly by American stallion Jeremes Jet out of Pocket Rain, a New Zealand-bred mare who produced Go West U Terror, a star two-year-old in WA four years ago when he won the Western Crown Classic and a heat and final of the Pearl Classic before finishing second to Ohokas Bondy in the Golden Slipper Stakes. Go West U Terror has had 42 starts for 15 wins, 11 placings and stakes of $196,971. "Her manners haven't been the best, but her turn of foot is something that I've not experienced before with a two-year-old," he said. "When I pulled her out she went past them a lot quicker than I expected. Then about the 300m I thought she might be coming to the end of her run. But I asked her to go again and she picked up the bit and got the job done." REUBEN BROGDEN BACK ON TRACK New Zealand-bred five-year-old Reuben Brogden looks set for a successful campaign after scoring an effortless win over 6/4 favourite Dominus Vobiscum and Dee Devito in the 2130m Slater Gartrell Seel N Print Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. At his third start after a spell and third favourite at 4/1 from the outside of the back line, Reuben Brogden simply was too classy for his rivals. Owner-trainer Gary Elson has worked hard to get the gelding back into top shape and reinsman Kim Young predicts bigger and better things for the pacer who was a shining light in November-December 2012 when he won a prelude of the Golden Nugget and finished third behind Im Victorious in the final. "The good early speed tonight was to his advantage and he was strong enough to get around and do his business," Young said. "He had plenty of petrol and he's a strong horse. Everything worked out fine. Hopefully, he'll go on with the job. He hasn't come back to the form he showed through the Nugget time, but hopefully he's on the right track now." This was Reuben Brogden's first success since winning the Bridgetown Cup 12 months ago and he now has earned $103,026 from 13 wins and ten placings from only 32 starts. Reuben Brogden settled in eighth position in the one-wide line before Young made his winning move, dashing the gelding forward 1350m from home and then gaining cover behind the three-wide run of Uncle Kracker. Reuben Brogden forged to the front 420m from home and coasted to victory by four lengths. OHOKA SQUIRE-WOODLEY COMBINATION STRIKES AGAIN Star reinsman Morgan Woodley and New Zealand-bred five-year-old Ohoka Squire have formed a wonderful winning association. Woodley took his record behind Ohoka Squire to four wins and a second placing from eight drives behind the Christian Cullen gelding when he drove him to a smart victory in the 2130m Slater Gartrell Jake And Lola Pathway Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. At a gift price of 14/1 after sound placings at his two previous starts, Ohoka Squire, trained by Greg and Skye Bond, enjoyed the run of the race in the one-out, one-back position before charging home, five wide, to snatch a neck victory over Vertical Four in a four-way photo finish. Jasper Freeway, the 4/1 second fancy, was first out from barrier five and got to a one-length lead early, but was unable to cross the polemarker and 10/1 chance Time Passenger. Ohoka Kentucky, the 10/9 on favourite, settled in the one-out, one-back position and Robbie Williams sent him forward, three wide, approaching the bell. Jasper Freeway got to a narrow lead 260m from home and he fought on grandly to be a very close fourth. Vertical Four, who trailed the pacemaker, finished strongly to be a neck second, with a nose to Ohoka Kentucky. Ohoka Squire ended a losing sequence of 12 and looks set for further successes. A winner at his only start in New Zealand, at Wyndham in February 2012, the gelding now has had 34 starts for eight wins and 13 placings for earnings of $50,404. He is bred to be a good winner. His dam All My Art (by Falcon Seelster) won only twice rom 23 starts, but has produced outstanding performers Ohoka Nevada (98 starts for 40 wins, 29 placings and $505,757) and Ohoka du Nord (82 starts for 19 wins, 25 placings and $185,567). Ohoka Nevada won group 2 events, the 2009 Kilmore Cup, the 2009 Cranbourne Cup and 2011 Mildura Cup and the group 3 Winter Cup at Menangle in July 2012. He also was placed behind Smoken Up in the group 1 South Australian Cup in 2011 and 2012. KOROBEIT ANGEL SURVIVES EARLY SPEED BATTLE Champion reinsman Gary Hall jun. freely admits that Korobeit Angel is not renowned for her strength, but the four-year-old New Zealand-bred mare revealed an excellent competitive edge when she survived a hectic early battle for the lead in the 1730m Slater Gartrell Ash And Gemma Breeders Stakes prelude at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Favourite at 2/1 from barrier No. 2, Korobeit Angel had to be driven hard to get to the front after 350m following a speed battle with polemarker Courage On Fire and Am Opulent. The opening quarter of the final mile whizzed by in 27.7sec., virtually setting up the race for the swoopers back in the field. But Hall was able to get Korobeit Angel to relax and go through the second quarter in 30.3sec.before covering the final sections in 29sec. and 29.4sec. to win by just under a length from Jungle Genie, with one metre to Am Opulent in third place. Korobeit Angel rated a slick 1.55.8 as she improved her record to 32 starts for 12 wins, nine placings and $90,075 in stakes. A winner of five races in Victoria, she has raced 19 times in Western Australia for premier trainer Gary Hall sen. for seven wins and five placings. "There were concerns after the early burn," Hall jun. conceded. "She's not blessed with a great deal of toughness, but she surprised me tonight. I thought she toughed it out really well after that early burn. I think that the key to that was the way she was able to settle once getting to the lead. "When Jungle genie loomed up on the home turn I definitely thought that she had our measure. She got to us very comfortably and I had to go to my filly (mare) first and to her credit she responded really well and dug deep when she needed to." IMA GRUMPY JASPER RELISHES No. 1 BARRIER The immense benefit of the prized No. 1 barrier at Gloucester Park was yet again illustrated when Ima Grumpy Jasper, who had managed one placing from his past 14 starts, was a solidly-supported 7/4 favourite for the 2130m Slater Gartrell Alex And Amy Pace on Friday night. Backers of the favourite were on good terms with themselves as Chris Voak drove the Victorian-bred five-year-old to an easy all-the-way win, beating Arousing by just over a length. Arousing, who trailed the leader all the way, was a neck in front of Bronze Seeker, who raced four back on the pegs and rattled home along the inside before being hampered for room in the closing stages. After a slow lead time of 38.3sec. Ima Grumpy Jasper reeled off sections of 30.1sec., 30.4sec., 28.6sec. and 29sec. to record a mile rate of 1.58.2. Ima Grumpy Jasper, whose previous win was in an $8000 claimer at Melton 12 months earlier, is trained by Annie Belton and now has raced 50 times for nine wins, five placings and stakes of $51,037. Voak said that he was confident of success after the gelding drew the inside barrier. "When he last led (two starts ago) the winner (Shirlz Sensation) went 1.56.6 (over 2130m) and he finished fifth and rated a touch over 1.57," he said. "And from the pole tonight in a field which was a lot weaker than he raced against when he last led, this was, in my opinion, his race. Barring a very fast lead time, he looked the winner from the draw. "But a bit of pressure in the first quarter left a question mark hanging over him. But the lead time really set it up for him and he only had to run a mile. Every time I touched him with the whip he responded and gave something." DAVIES KEEPS HER PERFECT RECORD Kiara Davies maintained her 100 per cent record behind speedy New Zealand-bred gelding Little Boy Blue when she drove him to an effortless victory in the 2130m Slater Gartrell Sports Thornlie Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. This was her third drive behind the Bob Mellsop-trained five-year-old for three very easy wins. "He's a lovely horse to drive," Davies said as she thanked Mellsop and his wife Val (who owns the gelding) for giving her the opportunity to drive the pacer. "I'm now getting some of the best opportunities I've ever had, driving some extremely nice horses." Little Boy Blue, a heavily-supported 7/4 on favourite, began smartly from the No. 4 barrier and he raced three wide early before Davies sent him past the polemarker Celtic Crusader and into the lead after 420m. Little Boy Blue then dictated terms and he sped over the final 400m in 28.7sec. to give his rivals very little chance of overhauling him. Little Boy Blue was not extended in winning by three lengths from 9/1 chance Our Arlington, who sustained a powerful finishing burst. Celtic Crusader (20/1) held on to finish third ahead of Benjamin Banneker. Little Boy Blue rated 1.56.6 and advanced to an M4 classification. He has earned $142,986 from 15 wins and 21 placings from 61 starts. SHARDONS ROCKET OVERCOMES 30m HANDICAP Evergreen pacer Shardons Rocket made light of the back mark of 30 metres and maintained his grand form when he won the 2503m Slater Gartrell In The Force Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Colin Brown seized the initiative and made a winning move when he sent the nine-year-old forward, three wide, after 600m to move into the breeze, with 3/1 favourite Bartowski setting the pace. Shardons Rocket, third fancy at 4/1, kept the pressure on Bartowski and the first two quarters of the final mile went by in 29.3sec. and 29.5sec. before he surged to the front with 650m to travel. Shardons Rocket covered the next section in 29.3sec. and held on grimly to defeat 22/1 chance That Is Correct by one metre after a final quarter in 30.1sec. He rated a commendable 1.58.6. Bartowski succumbed to the constant pressure and wilted to finish tenth. Shardons Rocket continues to be a wonderful campaigner and he now has a splendid record of 151 starts for 28 wins and 50 placings for earnings of $323,217. He is trained at Byford by 67-year-old Tony Svilicich, who claimed him at Pinjarra on March 31 this year. The New Zealand-bred gelding had been trained for the previous few years by Svilicich for owners Ashley and Gavin McPhail. Shardons Rocket was claimed at Pinjarra on February 17 this year by Eric Chabros and was forced to leave his stables. And then Svilicich jumped at the opportunity to claim the gelding at Pinjarra on March 31. Since then Shardons Rocket has won twice and finished second once from five starts. "It was just enormous again; his last three runs have been fantastic," said Brown, who had to drive the old gelding vigorously in the final lap. "I know which one of us pulled up short of a run, and that's not him. I've got to know him out of a stand and it is just a matter of getting used to him. The thing is that Tony likes them flying out of a stand and making up the ground as quickly as they can. "Tony told me when I first started driving him that you've got to be up there eyeballing. If you give this horse half a chance to knock off, then you won't finish in the placings. It might not look too tidy, but that's the way the horse goes best." LEWIS HAPPY TO FILL IN FOR CORTOPASSI Champion reinsman Chris Lewis has happy to substitute in the sulky behind Shandon Village in the 2536m Slater Gartrell Allira And Jett Pace on Friday night while the veteran gelding's trainer Aldo Cortopassi was on the sidelines, serving a 120-day term of suspension. Cortopassi was suspended for causing interference in a race at Pinjarra last Monday week and he was granted a stay of proceedings to enable him to drive Shandon Village last Friday week. Shandon Village produced a powerful finishing burst to win at 12/1. Despite that impressive victory, Shandon Village was neglected by most punters on Friday night and was a 7/1 chance. He raced in ninth position before Lewis sent him forward approaching the bell to follow the three-wide run of Soho Monza. Conniving Major Dave, who went forward to move to the breeze after a lap, dashed past the pacemaker What God Knows 400m from home. But Shandon Village carried too many guns and forged to the front in the final stages to beat Conniving Major Dave by a neck, with 3/1 favourite Ohoka Courage running on from seventh at the bell to be third. by Ken Casellas

Barry Purdon has gone to the bench and called in a super-sub for Friday night's Group I New Zealand Derby at Addington. One of the most successful horseman in Derby history, Purdon has enlisted champion reinsman Ricky May to drive his charge Sky Major in the $175,000 event. Initially the North Island horseman came south with a view to driving the Group I winner himself, but May's availability proved too good to pass up on. "I want to give the horse the best possible opportunity," Purdon said yesterday. "Ricky is one of the best in the business, it makes sense to use him. "He knows all the opposition and their racing styles and he's one of our best in the big races." Purdon's record in the Derby is exemplary, although he hasn't started a horse in New Zealand's greatest three-year-old race since The Cavalier (11th), who he trained in partnership with Scott Phelan, ran in the 2008 edition, and then you have to go back to 2004 to find his next starters; High Calibre (9th) and Derek Bromac (11th). Purdon's five winners came during the 90s, including a golden period where he and his father Roy won four consecutive editions of the race with Kiwi Scooter (1992), Mark Roy (1993), Ginger Man (1994) and Il Vicolo (1995). He was successful on his own accord with Holmes DG in 1998. For May, the race hasn't been quite so kind. He's yet to claim a victory in 22 attempts with just three placings on Spring Alot (2004), Colonel Anvil (1999) and Happy Patron (1986) all he has to show for his efforts - a remarkable statistic considering some of the three-year-olds he has driven in his career. A brave fifth placing in last week's Flying Stakes gives Sky Major more than an outside chance of beating some of his talented opposition, although an outside barrier draw hasn't exactly helped. "We haven't had a great run of barrier draws with him," Purdon said. "But it could turn out to be a good one if there is plenty of speed in the race, Ricky's patient driving style could work right in our favour. He was super last week I thought, he just had to do too much work, but he has come through that run really well. "Now we just need that luck to fall our way." While one Purdon had to scratch his head at yet another average barrier draw, another was smiling after some good fortune. Purdon's brother Mark will line up four horses in the race as he shoots for his third consecutive victory and his 12th victory overall as either a trainer or a driver. And all four have drawn inside the first five marbles with Messini going from barrier one, Aldo Rossi barrier two, Isaiah barrier four and Alleluia barrier five. Gun three-year-olds Locharburn and Tiger Tara had mixed results in the draw stakes with Locharburn drawing six and Tiger Tara one on the second line. By Matt Markham (Courtesy of THE PRESS)              

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